Captain Saku Koivu and goaltender Jaroslav Halak stole the show as Montreal defeated the Boston Bruins 2-0. Koivu netted both goals for the Habs, setting a new career high for goals with 22. Meanwhile, Halak made 29 saves and obtained his 10th win of the season by posting his second career shutout, both of which game against the Boston Bruins this season.
At the other end of the rink, Bruins goalie Hannu Toivonen played a solid game, especially in the second period when Finnish netminder made 14 saves. Toivonen, who was called up recently by the Bruins after spending the last month in the AHL, finished the game with 28 saves.
Halak made a number of key saves early in the first period to keep things even. That opened the door for Montreal to take the lead with Boston’s Patrice Bergeron in the box for hooking. With exactly a minute gone in the powerplay, Saku Koivu was able to push the puck passed a Bruin defender and drive by him en route to the net where he easily swiped the puck to the left and right past Toivonen’s right leg.
Montreal would continue to defend that goal throughout the game, but were handed a golden opportunity to widen the gap when Boston took two undisciplined penalties at the end of the first period. The Habs began the second period with a 5-on-3 situation as both Aaron Ward and Patrice Bergeron were off serving penalties for roughing and hooking (again) respectively.
The second period saw the Habs dominate the Bruins, mostly due to the many powerplay opportunities they had. However, Toivonen proved that he could cut it at the NHL level and made 14 saves to keep the Bruins in the game.
Guillaume Latendresse hasn’t found the back of the net in a few games, so he decided to try something different. After exchanging some shoves with Boston’s Dennis Wideman, the two dropped the gloves. It was Latendresse’s first career fight, and the kid did pretty well.
Latendresse took down Wideman and detached the defenseman’s helmet before the two brought themselves back to their feet to exchange some punches. There was no decisive winner, but Latendresse clearly faired better of the two considering he successfully pulled Wideman’s sweater over his head halfway through the bout.
There were more than a few anxious moments in the third period as the Habs failed to put it out of reach with the several opportunities they had. Boston tested Halak throughout the final frame, firing 14 total shots the Slovakian netminder’s way.
It was Toivonen who allowed the games second and final goal, though. Saku Koivu was working his magic again and scored the team’s third straight game going back to Saturday’s 4-3 win over the Sabres. Koivu’s goal came at the 14:42 mark of the third period and all but finished off the Bruins.
The goal came on somewhat of a trademark goal by Koivu, who often cuts from the left circle out into the slot. He did it again to lift a backhander past Toivonen for his second marker of the night. The two goals give Koivu 71 points on the season, which ties his previous career high in points set in the 2002-03 season.
Koivu’s strong play tonight came just a game after he was basically benched by Carbonneau. The Habs’ Captain finished Saturday night’s game against the Sabres having played only a shade over 11 minutes, a season low. The persevering forward shrugged it off more recently and was ready to move onto tonight’s match with the Bruins rather than dwell on the past. Koivu came through for the team again to score his second consecutive game-winning goal.
Cristobal Huet was scheduled to back up Halak tonight, but some unfinished paperwork prevented the goalie from making his much anticipated return. It’s not certain that Huet will even have an opportunity to play over the next two games thanks to some fantastic play from the rookie, Jaroslav Halak.
With the win, Montreal continues to hold down the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, a single point ahead of the Toronto Maple Leafs. With two games left in the season against the New York Rangers Thursday, and the Leafs Saturday night, the Habs’ playoff future could very well be determined on the final day of the season.